A weekend at the Gulf Coast - Part I

A couple of weeks ago the discussion at the dinner table revolved around taking a short weekend family trip in order to see something other than the inside walls of our house. For the most part, I love staying at home, but every once in a while I want to venture out and see something new, photograph something different, and perhaps discover new foods as inspiration for my growing desire to incorporate new recipes into our daily life. I would have loved to flown to New England, and hopefully one day we'll take that trip, but the more sensible option was to take a 5-hour drive to the Gulf Coast. That is exactly what we did and it just happened to be Mardi Gras celebration when we arrived.

It was raining most of the morning on Saturday, but we managed to get the kids into the minivan while our belongings for the weekend were piled into the back. Around 13h, we were finally on our way. The kids got to watch one Thomas DVD - enough for one trip. Afterwards, they were happy to watch the passing scenery outside through the rain-covered windows which included cows, donkeys, and horses. At one point I noticed a field of only white cows, or at least I think they were cows. The kids were very well behaved, considering they had to sit in one spot for hours. They each had a little baggie filled with duck shaped cheddar crackers (the Whole Foods brand) which kept them busy for a while. In addition, I shared my trail mix with them - handing raisins and dried cranberries to the younger two kids and tossing whole raw almonds to Saffi at the back of the van.

Traffic in Houston was scary to say the least. At times, I had to close my eyes as my husband navigated through the madness in the rain...

...but soon, we would arrive at our destination.

When we arrived at the hotel, the Mardi Gras parade was about to start. We quickly grabbed our belongings out of the van and because of the immense crowds and closed-off streets, chose to have the van valet parked. It wasn't until after the van was gone that my husband realised that Sagey's shoes were not on his feet. How could he have not noticed his missing shoes as he was taking him out of the carseat? So, I waited over 20 minutes for someone to run to the van to grab his shoes while the rest of the family went up the stairs to get checked into the room. The parade on the main street, Seawall, was about to start any minute.

Raincoats and boots were put on...

...and we were on our way.

We first saw a band playing.

Then we walked down Seawall Blvd where the parade floats started to arrive - tossing Mardi Gras beads out into the crowds.

I've never seen so many beads - ever. Then again, I've never been to a Mardi Gras celebration. The girls were happy to have collected so many necklaces.

I was happy to finally get to eat dinner. Since the streets were still crowded, we opted to eat in the hotel restaurant instead of searching for something and having to wait for the valet person to bring our car. The food choices were minimal and the prices were high, but at the time that was our only option. Our server seemed to be lost at times when we would ask for a particular item...such as plain pasta (no butter, no sauce) for the kids or any kind of beer (which he told us they didn't have any and which turned out not to be the case). With my very picky palate, I was able to find one item on the menu that would work, but only if I could swap out one item from one menu option with another. Dexter, our server, was lost and went to find out if it was possible to make substitutions. So, another member of the staff appeared at our table and I immediately asked him if it was possible to have the Gulf caught snapper blackened, without the shrimp cream (I'm not a lover of seafood - except some fish), and to be able to substitute the plantains for some grilled veggies. He asked, "Who's your server? The Filipino, black guy, or the white girl?" "Uh...", I started to say, then with a bit of hesitation I said "...the Filipino". So, he informed me that if I told our server that I had allergies, the server would make a note of it and make it happen.

In the end, after a longish wait, our food arrived and it was mediocre at best. The kids had huge bowls of huge spiral-shaped pasta with Parmesan cheese. Now, when I say "huge bowls", I really mean large...as in about 12 inches in diameter and about four inches deep. They could hardly finish half of the bowl of pasta. We also had fresh bread with garlic butter which actually tasted good.

Afterwards, we walked up the white marble steps to our room and settled into the California King bed...Seena falling asleep almost immediately, Papa reading something on his iPhone, Sagey clutching his little lion, and Saffi controlling the remote. 

As I crawled into bed, I took the remote from Saffi and landed on a channel where German was being spoken. I thought it might be interesting to watch the movie but I quickly fell asleep only to be awoken by my husband near the end of the movie, asking me whether I was still awake and watching. My gaze was fuzzy as I struggled to stay awake just to see the name of this terrible movie. I recognized one American actor and noticed that the movie was not what I had initially thought it would be. After the credits rolled by, I still didn't catch the name of the movie since I was half asleep. I started flipping through the channels and discovered a new food channel - the Cooking Channel. Rarely do we watch tv at home, so it was interesting to find yet another channel dealing with food. The show I watched was unfamiliar to me - I did not recognize the people but it looked interesting. In this episode of Extra Virgin, Debi and Gabriele were getting ready to throw a dinner party for their friends. He was roasting a lamb in a pizza oven and she was busy learning how to make a new drink. It was a typical show where cooking seems so effortless to those watching from the comfort of their homes. I can just imagine the sheer effort that goes into the production of such a show. It would be interesting to see the behind-the-scenes action and to be able to smell and eat the food being being prepared. As the show came to an end, everyone was enjoying the wonderful Mascarpone Amaretti Cup and I was glad I discovered even more new recipes to try.

The night was short for me and I found myself up around 3,30h typing "Brad Pitt bad German movie" into Google search where I finally came up with the name of the movie I wished I hadn't stumbled upon - "Inglourious Basterds". I brushed off the thoughts and decided to start reading Molly's blog . I must have been awake for about two hours reading her blog instead of her book that was sitting in my backpack on the floor at the foot of the bed. I started to read from the very beginning, which means I have so much more reading to do in the upcoming months, not to mention having to try all of the recipes she posts. The Gâteau au Citron might have to be the first recipe I try this weekend.

I did manage to get in a few more hours of sleep before the family was ready to find food for breakfast...which actually turned out to be brunch. So, I Googled "best breakfast Galveston" and discovered that Mosquito Cafe had the best reviews.

It was a Sunday around noon, so the line meandered outside the door. While waiting in line, we met several interesting people, among them a husband and wife from Houston - the husband reminding me a lot of Harrison Ford. My husband chatted with them while I browsed the menu to see what I could eat. Have I mentioned that I'm a picky eater? Yes, finding food that I will actually eat is the biggest challenge when travelling. That and making sure that I eat in a timely manner, lest I become a lion who will bite off your head.

So, I actually found several items that seemed interesting.

Since we had in effect skipped breakfast, I chose the roasted corn chowder and the breakfast bowl which consisted of roasted potatoes, fresh sauteed spinach, and two poached eggs, with the cook kindly leaving out the bacon. The food was superb and I would have loved to have returned the following day had it not been for the restaurant being closed on Mondays.

The only available table at the time was one right at the back door which wouldn't have been a problem had it not been so cold outside. Seena was shivering, but Papa quickly bundled her up in his warm down jacket and she continued eating her fluffy buttermilk pancakes with fresh strawberries.

Saffi was all grown up with her own fork and knife and was cutting up her pancake all by herself, while Sagey waited patiently for Papa to cut the pancake into bite-sized pieces.

As we were finishing our breakfast, the couple we met in line were already getting ready to leave. "Harrison" was insisting that his wife take his scone along with hers, but she refused and headed toward the back door, passing us in the process. "Harrison" looks over to me and says "After 30 years, she still doesn't listen to me." I smiled, and he smiled back as he opened the door and followed his wife out the their car.

After brunch, we walked over to Patty Cakes Bakery across the street, and bought three different fresh baked cookies to eat later that evening...a coconut macaroon, chocolate chip shortbread cookie, and a chocolate crinkle cookie.

We all piled into the minivan and drove back to the hotel where I swapped out lenses before we headed to the beach.